* Updated 9 February 2011 *
I make no pretensions about it, I am a computer geek. I am addicted to computers, and addicted to the internet. I spend a good chunk of my life online and use the internet for everything from communicating with friends and family to arranging to meet people to checking to see what movies are showing. I'm uncomfortable going more than a few hours without access to the net. In fact, if I go for as long as 24 hours away from the net - which almost never happens - I get serious withdrawal symptoms. The greatest invention of modern times as far as I am concerned, is wi-fi, or wireless internet.
Wi-fi stands for 'wireless fidelity'. It is a wireless network technology. You could consider it to be a physical medium between 2 points (although without the physical bit) that allows data communication. Wi-fi conforms to the 802.11 standard which is subdivided into various wireless network technologies working at varying radio frequencies. With the newest wi-fi standard, the range is around 100 metres, meaning that you could access the internet on your wi-fi enabled computer up to 100 metres from where it is being broadcast from.
To use wi-fi, you need a wi-fi enabled computer. Most new laptops sold these days have wi-fi built in, but even if your laptop doesn't have it on board, you can buy, or borrow, a wi-fi card and add it easily.
The area where wi-fi is available is called a "hot spot" and hot spots can be intentionally open - where the signal is offered for anyone to connect to, or mistakenly left open, where those who set up the system did not mean to leave it open for anyone to use - but it is! Secure hot spots, that is those which are not free, will ask anyone attempting to connect for a username and password to access them. The major problem with wi-fi in Bangkok is that many of the hot spots are relatively expensive with rates around the 150 baht an hour mark the norm. This really seems an awful lot when you consider that unlimited data broadband connections are available in one's home from less than 500 baht a month.
I have no plans to list all of the pay per use wi-fi spots in Bangkok on this page, although that may change in the future. For anyone who is happy to pay for the privilege, many Starbucks branches, Au Bon Pain branches and also some McDonalds branches have pay per use wi-fi available. Then there are the hotels and many of the better / more expensive places have wi-fi available, sometimes free to guests, sometimes not. Obviously you can use it at the airport where there are a few connections, expensive I should imagine though!
It should be noted that the excellent local cafe chain called COFFEE WORLD offers free wi-fi in all of its branches! Ask the staff for the password. Coffee World is cheaper than Starbucks and the coffee is just as good...maybe even better!
For users of the local internet service provider True, I believe that for a 250 baht supplementary payment per month you get unlimited wi-fi usage at any of the hot spots operated by True. I also believe Internet Thailand have some sort of arrangement whereby you can use your standard login and password at some hot spots and are charged a nominal amount.
This site is a very incomplete list of the FREE wi-fi spots available.
It would be great if readers could send in info about other free spots so that the list can be updated regularly!